The Seder

Rabbi Menachem Genack

The Seder and the age-old rituals of Passover seem to have the ability to capture our imagination as no other events in the Jewish calendar. And yet Passover’s enduring popularity is an odd phenomenon. Of all the festivals, Passover’s stringencies are the most detailed. Even the Seder itself is fundamentally a rigidly structured and formalized ritual. Ironically, the holiday that celebrates our freedom is the most restrictive.

What is there in the human psyche that attracts it to a holiday whose proper observance is the subject of volumes? What charm is there in a meal that requires an instruction guide for its proper execution? Passover celebrates freedom, but it is the type of freedom that resonates with a feeling that lies deep in the human soul. Deep down inside each of us is the God-given realization that freedom without structure is anarchy, freedom without responsibility leads to chaos. Passover celebrates freedom, but in the context of being faithful to tradition. We receive satisfaction and fulfillment out of following the rules, of complying with the ritual. And our satisfaction is enhanced by the awareness that we follow the same rules that our people has followed for generations, centuries and millennia. In the faithful observance of Passover, we exercise our freedom to be links in the chain of Jewish tradition. The chain we choose is not a fetter of captivity but a great chain that unites the past and present and extends into the eternal future. This is our tradition, our mesorah.

The Torah recounts that the words of the Ten Commandments were divinely engraved in the tablets of stone, “charut al ha’luchot.” The Talmud notes that, by changing one letter, the Hebrew word “charut”—engraved—can be read as “cherut”—freedom. The message that our Sages teach is that one can achieve true freedom only by adhering to the laws of the Torah and by being faithful to our tradition.

Passover and the Seder are defined by ancient ritual, but they are still performed today with ever greater enthusiasm. Our tradition continues and thrives in the contemporary world and the modern era.

This is the mission that infuses the work performed on a daily basis at OU Kosher, the world’s largest kashrut organization, working with the timeless principles of the Torah as expounded by our Sages and applying them with creativity and innovation to maintain an infrastructure supervising tens of thousands of kosher products around the world.

OU Kosher demonstrates that the Torah and the mesorah can be as relevant today as they were at Sinai, and will continue to be as they continue to forge the destiny and ultimate redemption of the Jewish People.